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Wildling’ Gives Female Twist To Werewolf Tale

Indie film gives lycanthropy a modern update

Photo caption:

Photo credit: IFC Midnight

Anna (Bel Powley) is taken in by Ellen Cooper (Liv Tyler) in the modern werewolf tale "Wildling."

Companion viewing

"La Loba" (1965)

"Ginger Snaps" (2000)

"Dog Soldiers" (2007)

Like vampires and zombies, werewolves never seem to go out of style. "Wildling" is latest film to tackle lycanthropy.

No matter how grown-up we may think we are, we are forever receptive to the allure of a good bedtime story. That's precisely what the new film "Wildling" counts on as it opens with Brad Dourif asking: "Do you want to hear a story about the wildling…"

Well of course we do! Especially when you have a slightly creepy Dourif offering up the tale to a wide-eyed little girl kept locked in a room for her own safety. That kind of "Once upon a time..." storytelling hits us at a primal level and almost immediately sucks us into the film.

The little girl is Anna (Arlo Mertz as the very young Anna, and Bel Powley as the teenage one). The only world she knows is the room her supposed father (Dourif) has let her live in. She gets an occasional glimpse of the outside world through a window but Daddy always warns that she must stay inside or else the wildling might get her. But Anna does get out and is ill-prepared for the world outside as well as for the darkness that lies inside of her.

"Wildling" is a clever reimagining of werewolf lore using a present-day setting and female twist. It is not the first film to give us a female werewolf. There was a female werewolf in "La Loba" (Mexico, 1965) and Dee Wallace memorably transformed into one at the end of "The Howling" (1981). The 2000s gave us "Ginger Snaps" (2000) and "Dog Soldiers" (2007) with women transforming in intriguing ways. Like "Ginger Snaps," "Wilding" mixes lycanthropy with puberty to suggest that teenage girls, with or without the werewolf curse, face some challenges dealing with emotional and physical changes. Of course also being a werewolf does make it all worse.

"Wildling" understands the particular tragedy of a person that cannot contain or understand the monster that lies within. As with the classic Lon Chaney, Jr. "The Wolf Man" of the 1940s, "Wilding" makes the monster sympathetic and casts it as tragic.

Directed by Fritz Böhm, "Wilding" boasts a solid cast (in addition to Dourif and Powley, Liv Tyler is appealing as the compassionate cop that takes Anna under her wing). It serves up a compelling modern werewolf story that only falters in the final scenes where it spells out some things that might have been better left to our imaginations.

Like vampires and zombies, werewolves never seem to go out of style. "Wildling" is latest film to tackle lycanthropy.

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